The U.S. military is sending the same elite soldiers responsible for the death of Osama bin Laden to vanquish ISIS in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks.
On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced to members of Congress that the Pentagon will deploy a special operations task force to northern Iraq to begin targeted raids against key members of the Islamic State on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border. The expeditionary task force will be roughly 200 strong and will fall under the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), according to a senior U.S. official interviewed by the Daily Beast.
JSOC is an obvious choice to spearhead the expanding American ground war against ISIS. Its reputation as a highly secretive and extremely effective killing machine was first established during the early days of the Iraq War under the leadership of Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Between 2003 and 2008, the task force killed or captured thousands of insurgents, and is often credited with dismantling al-Qaeda's leadership in Iraq.
That's just the tip of the iceberg/ Over the years, JSOC has conducted thousands of top secret operations throughout the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, and even Peru, often striking deep behind enemy lines to neutralize targets in places where conventional forces never go. It was under JSOC that SEAL Team 6 executed the mission that took out Osama Bin Ladin. And it was under JSOC that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed. Those random stories of American commandos storming compounds in Somalia or snatching men off the streets of Libya that occasionally pop up in the news? That's JSOC.
The Daily Beast reports that the decision to establish a JSOC cell in northern Iraq came after warnings from top U.S. defense and intelligence officials that "the ISIS network is growing faster than the coalition that’s fighting it." JSOC's agility on the battlefield is mostly owed to the fact that it operates completely off the radar. And that's precisely what makes it so appealing to the Obama administration, which is attempting to ramp up ground operations in Iraq and Syria as quietly as possible.
As Defense Secretary Carter indicated in his speech on Tuesday, JSOC is only phase one. But until the cavalry arrives, chances are we'll begin seeing key members of the ISIS hierarchy vanish off the map very soon. Or at least that's the hope.
“It puts everybody on notice in Syria,” Carter said. “You don’t know at night who’s going to be coming in the window. And that’s the sensation that we want all of [ISIS’s] leadership and followers to have.”